TV binge-watching out of fashion as streaming services drip-feed shows

Are you still watching? TV binge-watching ‘falls out of fashion’ as streaming services drip-feed episodes to viewers and restrained viewing is seen as more ‘sophisticated’

  • Binge-watching first emerged with the release of DVD box-sets of quality serials
  • It was once seen as limited to viewers with enough free leisure time and money But the rapid growth of streaming services has made the practice commonplace
  • Now the binge-watching of shows is no longer seen as an exclusive, elite activity

Binge-watching television has fallen out of fashion and streaming services are now leaning towards drip-feeding viewers one episode at a time, a study reports. 

According to the researcher, the more restrained your viewing habits are the more sophisticated you now seem as on-demand television has become commonplace.

Streaming service marathons appear to have suffered the same fate as channel surfing — a habit that was seen as trendy when remote controls were introduced.

Now, however,  this practice has become associated with the ‘couch potato’ lifestyle, having lost its erstwhile ‘cultural capital’.

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Binge-watching television has fallen out of fashion and streaming services are now leaning towards drip-feeding viewers one episode at a time, a study reports 

In her paper, media expert Mareike Jenner of the Anglia Ruskin University notes that the television-on-demand subscription service Netflix — whose success has been built on binge watching — is now trying to distance itself from the term.

Instead, Netflix and its fellow streaming platforms are now switching their focus to ‘drip-feeding’ episodes one at a time, rather than making an entire season available in one go.

Binge-watching has followed a similar path in the public consciousness as ‘channel-surfing’ — a practice which burst on to the scene with the introduction of TV remote controls, only to go on to become associated with the lazy ‘couch potato’ lifestyle.

‘Last year Guy Pearce admitted he was instructed not to use the term while promoting The Innocents,’ Dr Jenner added.

‘The fact Netflix are telling their actors not to use the term in public means that binge-watching is becoming something to be frowned upon rather than celebrated.’

According to Dr Jenner, the history of binge-watching predates the advent of streaming services like Netflix — and is instead emerged when hit serials like HBO’s ‘The Sopranos’ and ‘Six Feet Under’ were first made available on DVD box-sets.

‘Then, gorging on quality TV over an evening or even a weekend was seen as a sophisticated activity, carried out by people who could afford it — both in terms of money and leisure time,’ she explained.

‘Last year Guy Pearce admitted he was instructed not to use the term while promoting The Innocents,’ Dr Jenner added. Pictured, Guy Pearce performs as Bendik ‘Ben’ Halvorson in the British supernatural television series the The Innocents, which premiered on Netflix in 2018

According to Dr Jenner, the history of binge-watching predates the advent of streaming services like Netflix — and is instead emerged when hit serials like HBO’s ‘The Sopranos’ and ‘Six Feet Under’ were first made available on DVD box-sets. Pictured, the season 4 cast of the American crime drama ‘The Sopranos’

The perception of binge-watching as a habit began to tarnish, however, with the rapid growth of Netflix, which has expanded into a broad variety of genres, Dr Jenner explained.

‘That, coupled with low subscription costs, meant there was an almost inevitable backlash from the cultural commentators and trendsetters, probably fuelled by a large dollop of snobbery,’ she added.

‘Their elite activity was now being enjoyed by everyone.’

‘This normalisation of spending evenings watching back-to-back episodes was quickly followed by demonisation and moral panics as we got into the “what if our children watch this” debates.’

For Dr Jenner, such was exemplified in the discourse surrounding the controversial 2017 Netflix series ’13 Reasons Why’, which addressed the issue of suicide.

‘[The] normalisation of spending evenings watching back-to-back episodes was quickly followed by demonisation and moral panics as we got into the “what if our children watch this” debates,’ said Dr Jenner, with such exemplified in the discourse surrounding the controversial 2017 Netflix series ’13 Reasons Why’, she argued, which addressed the issue of suicide

Streaming service marathons appear to have suffered the same fate as channel surfing — a habit that was seen as trendy when remote controls were introduced

‘We’re currently seeing streaming platforms introduce different ways of providing content, such as “drip feeding” episodes,’ added Dr Jenner.

‘Several platforms, such as Disney+, are now releasing one episode a week, just like traditional TV. The companies see this as the way forward.’

‘Now the more restrained you are, the more sophisticated you are.’

The full findings of the study were published in Participations: Journal of Audience and Reception Studies. 

HOW YOU CAN BINGE-WATCH A YEAR’S WORTH OF NETFLIX CONTENT

Kinnari Naik, of the University of Leicester, found that an unemployed adult could watch all 1,399 pieces of content uploaded to Netlfix in 2017 by following a strict routine.

The feat would take 236.5 days, assuming the watcher spent 13 hours 50 minutes and 40 seconds per day – 58 per cent of their time – on Netflix.

The study allocated time outside of viewing Netflix in order to accommodate for:

  • Four pints (two litres) of fluid per day, divided into four 176 fluid ounce (500 ml) portions, with each drinking break given an allocation of 10 minutes
  • Three 30 minute meals breaks.
  • Bathing and washing 15 minutes daily
  • Seven five minute-long breaks for urination
  • An additional 10 minute void to pass stool. 
  • Sleeping time allocated was just seven hours

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